I was meeting a new friend at a local shopping area, so, being my usual self and in no mood for the subway, I opted to take a cab. Absolutely no problem this time - I flagged down a cab, luckily had a nice driver who understood me perfectly and drove me exactly where I wanted to go. By the time we arrived, I was feeling pretty accomplished by this seemingly simple action of taking a taxi.. (sometimes, its the little things) ....paid the driver, opened the taxi door when WHAM!! I opened the door onto a biker rider trying to pass by. Ooops. I felt awful! I shut the door and looked at the taxi driver with big eyes - OMG! I'm so sorry! I said in Chinese, knowing these cabs are usually personally owned by the drivers. Luckily, he was a nice taxi driver, smiled and assured me "mei shi mei shi" ("it's nothing") - I think he felt bad for me. He must have known what was waiting for me!
I stepped out of the taxi and walked over to the bike rider who was just standing near her bike a few feet away from the taxi. Guys - I merely OPENED the door on her. She didn't actually fly right into it, and she wasn't moving very fast, and she didn't even fall. But of course I rushed over, apologized a million times, asked her if she was okay... I must have ruined her entire day because she immediately started cursing at me in a stream of rapid-fire Chinese. After a few minutes of this I realized there was nothing I could do - she wasn't injured, her bike wasn't damaged at all - so I walked away, completely embarrassed & obviously apologetic.
After a few great hours hanging out with my friend, I went over to the taxi queue to catch a ride home. I got into the first cab and told the driver where I wanted to go. "I don't know where it is" he says - and because *I* don't know HOW to get home from there (driving), I'm at a loss, so I shyly step out of the car, feeling like a silly foreigner, completely self conscious and embarrassed. Onto the next cab, I get in, crossing my fingers and hoping with every fiber of my being that this driver would know where I wanted to go. Apparently not. I gave him street names, landmarks such as subway stations, the CCTV television building - he said he doesn't know exactly where it was. so. I got out, the second time in just 3 minutes, completely embarrassed! I mean - this guy is a Beijing taxi driver and he doesn't know where the CCTV building is? FISHY! VERY FISHY!! I don't know if I believe that.
A couple days later I took a taxi and it was flawless, the driver was awesome, he understood me, and when we were stuck in a traffic jam he complained about all the cars and I agreed.... when he realized I spoke Chinese, it was like a floodgate opened and we chatted the whole way back to my apartment. It was like he had been dying to talk to someone! I love that sort of taxi driver!
He restored my faith in taxis, which is why yesterday I felt comfortable flagging down a taxi on the way home from school. The taxi came driving over, I thought "nice!" I had this theory that I'm less likely to be kicked out of a cab if I flag the driver down and he drives over to me - as opposed to seeing a taxi sitting on the side of the road and me going over to him. I figured this way, the taxi driver is making a choice to come over to me and take me somewhere. I was convinced it was fool-proof. Unfortunately, I was proved wrong. I got into the cab, told him where I wanted to go - anticipating the "I don't know where it is" excuse, I threw out all the landmarks and surrounding streets. The taxi driver responded "I'm sorry, blah blah getting off of work blah blah words I don't understand blah other direction blah." so, I got out. His accent was super thick and he was talking really fast, but I'm pretty sure he was getting off from work and was hoping to pick up one last ride - if it was going in the direction he wanted to go.
I've taken the subway since then. The good thing is it was a really bad day and I wanted nothing more than to stay inside my house and NOT leave for the rest of the day.... fortunately, I had a hair appointment and was forced to go back out. I'm glad I did because it made me turn my negative day into a positive day, and I had a great time walking to and from the subway station and just enjoyed being outside in Beijing. Plus, my new hair stylist is amazing! Who knew I'd have to come to Beijing for someone who can do a great blonde?!
1. Always look before opening a car door!
2. My "call a taxi over to you and you are less likely to get kicked out" theory is completely false.
We are going traveling tomorrow - maybe by the time we get back to Beijing I'll feel like taking my chances on a taxi again. :)
P.S. An update on my homesickness and slight culture shock - I am feeling SO much better! Now that I've made a few friends here and have made myself get out and about, try new things, enjoy travel.... I have been feeling so much more at home and have been able to cherish my time here.